By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
TWO men were murdered in separate incidents last night. In the first, a man was shot while driving his car and, in the second, a 22-year-old was gunned down by two men as he was out walking.
The killings came hours after National Security Minister Marvin Dames said that, while the country’s murder count has remained below 100 for the second straight year, the government is “still not happy” with a death toll that is “still too high”.
At the scene of the first killing in the Baillou Hill Road area, Superintendent Dencle Barr, officer-in-charge of the southern division, said police received a report after 6pm of an incident involving a vehicle at John Road and Blue Hill Road. Mobile Division officers responded and found a man in the vehicle with apparent gun shot injuries to the body.
Supt Barr said initial information suggests another car - a dark coloured, right hand drive vehicle - may have been following the victim and that shots were fired. The victim is a dark skinned male who appears to be in his early 30s, Supt Barr said.
A cyclist, who said he was in the area during the shooting, told reporters he heard about four gunshots. He said he saw the victim’s car “come flying” across the street, over the sidewalk and “into a tree”. “Only thing I could do is open the door and let him catch some air. . .,” the cyclist said.
The second murder happened near Prison Lane off East Street. A police spokesperson said: “At around 9.40pm, the police received reports of gunshots in this area. Upon arrival, we found a young man on the ground with gunshot injuries to his body. He was examined and there was no sign of life. We understand he was walking in this area when a silver car pulled up, two men got out and opened fire on the deceased. He is understood to be in his early twenties. Two homicides in one night is a concern. It’s something that we never want to happen.”
The victim’s grandmother said: “I was shocked when I get the news because I saw him the day before yesterday. He visited me and said ‘Grammy I haven’t foresaken you and I love you’. I told him to be careful. We warned him not to come to the area because there had been a disagreement between some guys.”
Earlier yesterday, Mr Dames told reporters that while the country has “gotten over the hurdle” of keeping its death toll out of the triple digits, the government and The Bahamas at large still has a “very long way to go” to reducing it to a satisfactory level.
Still, he said the Minnis administration feels “confident” that it is “moving in the right direction” in lowering the Bahamas’ murder rate and that the public can expect to see “additional positive changes” this year.
The country’s murder count in 2019 was pushed to 96, according to The Tribune’s records, a 5.5 percent increase over 2018’s 91 killings.
While this count did not fall in line with Mr Dames’ ambitious goal of seeing the year close out with less than 85 murders, it signalled the second consecutive year that such crimes were less than 100 since 2010.
It is also a considerable decrease of 21 percent from 2017’s high of 122 murders.
Although last year’s murders represent a minimal increase over 2018, officials have already attributed the change to police resources being stretched thin in dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
In an interview with reporters in late December, Police Commissioner Anthony Ferguson said he thought the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) did “exceptionally” well tackling murders despite having to adjust its policing plan to suit urgent circumstances.
Questioned on his take on last year’s murder count, Mr Dames shared the same sentiments, asserting that the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and the RBPF’s response to the storm played a big role in 2019’s murder count being what it is.
“The murder count is still high,” he said on the sidelines of a police event. “We’ve gotten over the hurdle of keeping the murder count under 100; we haven’t done that in a while.
“Last year though was a particular challenge. You can see, around September, when we had to respond to Dorian, it really put an additional pressure on the resources of our law enforcement agencies.
“And having to rotate 100, 150 officers at a time to get onto Abaco and to support Grand Bahama calls for a significant shift in the scheduling here on the island (of New Providence). And that may have impacted to some degree how September went.
“But after they were able to—the commissioner and his team and the commodore—figure it all out, it was smooth sailing from there.”
Mr Dames continued: “So I mean, we still have a very long way to go. The good thing is that 2020, now that we’ve signed most of the contracts from a technology standpoint, they expect to see the implementation of those during the first quarter or half of this year, that will go a long way too in assisting a lot of them in their efforts.
“We’re still not happy, we’re not content, but we feel confident that we’re moving in the right direction, and you can expect to see additional positive changes come 2020.”
According to this newspaper’s records, the nation was at 61 murders by August 25 with two more murders to follow on August 30 and six killings overall in August.
The month of September then saw 15 murders, with one in Grand Bahama; October had 10 killings.
There were then three fatal incidents in November and five in December including one in Grand Bahama.
The final murder of 2019 happened on December 30 when a man was shot dead in Coconut Grove.